Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

It was the setting of this book which intrigued me - Bouganville? Who would know about an island off Papua New Guinea with the world's largest copper mine closed down by a vicious struggle for independence? The fact it was also a Man Booker finalist just added to it's mystery. There is an odd white man in Matilda's village. And when the teacher leaves on the last boat the villagers ask Mr. Watts or Pop Eye to staff their school. He is a wonderful man, very formal and correct who introduces these kids living in a tropical paradise to Dicken's London with Great Expectations. What can they have in common? Changed circumstances for one thing. The village is under constant treat of the insurgency and isolated from the rest of the world. Pip's change in circumstances can only give the children heart as Mr. Watts reads to them. The adults in the village are invited to teach the class lessons from their lives. The sense of whimsy is overwhelming here. We hear stories about broken dreams, how a frigate bird delivered a birthday card from a neighboring island, preserving one's virginity, the weaving of sleeping mats. And so the story unfolds with humor, tragedy and a final unmasking of their teacher's life. What a lovely read.

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